By NATE TENOPIR, SENIOR STAFF WRITER
When the U.S. women’s national soccer team returned from the World Cup in Germany, the line to congratulate them and welcome them back couldn’t have been longer.
Hope Solo, Abby Wambach, and Alex Morgan signed marketing deals with Bank of America, and Solo, Wambach and Megan Rapinoe appeared on David Lettermen. A Wyoming business mogul bought the team a 15-liter bottle of champagne, and Solo and Morgan were seen at the season premiere of “Entourage.”
Though I watched with great interest and cheered along with everyone else, the hero’s welcome the team has received since they’ve returned home has bothered me. Granted, they made the final, played a very entertaining game and lost to a team that we can all smile at and feel good for.
But they lost. Team members were probably destined make appearances on late-night TV, at Hollywood events and in other parts of American pop culture regardless of how the final game played out.
It just bothers me that we’re so ready to celebrate their achievement and make them the toast of the town when they didn’t win.
This isn’t the same reaction we saw for the men’s team last summer. I understand that the men’s team didn’t make the World Cup final, but they at least overachieved by most expectations.
Ranked No. 13 in the world, the men’s team made the round of 16 and earned a draw against world-No. 7 England.
The women’s team went into the tournament ranked No. 1 in the world and, at least from my perspective, had only one measure of success: winning the cup. Since they didn’t, the whole thing leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.
There was the dramatic win over Brazil, but we had only lost to Brazil twice in team history. Don’t get excited about the name Brazil. It may be synonymous with soccer success but, when it comes to the women’s game, we own them.
On the other hand, the team lost to Sweden in the final game of the group stage, a team we have an 18-4-7 all-time record against with a 3-0 mark in the World Cup. The loss to Japan ended a 22-0-3 unbeaten streak against them.
Plus, it was just the way they lost. Nine minutes to go and they couldn’t hold a 1-0 lead. Only a few minutes remaining in extra time and again they surrender a late goal, follow by a complete meltdown in the penalty kicks.
I will admit that I’m not much of a soccer fan, so most of my attention on the soccer events that took place in Germany over the last month grew out of national interest more than anything else. The reaction the rest of America had to a team that, for all intents and purposes, failed, seems very misplaced.
Where was the love and support prior to Americans catching a glimpse of Hope Solo or Alex Morgan on ESPN? Did Americans really fall in love with the way the team played, hustled and never gave up?
Or did we fall in love with pretty girls in tight shorts who look good when they sweat? If we’re so impressed with the heart and the drive of this team then why didn’t Bank of America sign the whole team to a marketing deal?
Why are Solo and Morgan getting all of the appearances? I don’t want to get in a discussion of gender relations, but some of this feels like we’re doing these women a disservice.
If it were me, I wouldn’t want to be on TV or make any appearances and I wouldn’t want people congratulating me when I felt like I failed.
How would you feel if you were Carli Lloyd, Heather O’Reilly or Shannon Boxx? America says they love you and they’re so proud of you, but why aren’t you the ones on TV?
The team did a lot of great things in Germany and gave us a lot of great moments. I’m proud of them and I’m glad I followed the team through the tournament.
But they lost and any memory I have of the 2012 Women’s World Cup will be one of disappointment. I wanted America to win because I’m an American, not because I thought Hope Solo was hot.